Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nice Ride Tour

The Nice Ride stations that usually dot my commute in familiar yellow-green along the route from Minneapolis to St. Paul have been conspicuously missing the past few weeks. (And with the white backdrop of snow, the landscape is all the more drab.) The program shuts down the first week of November each year and stations get packed up over the course of the month and won’t be back up again until the first week of April (weather permitting). For the past couple of years I have wanted to try the bikes out to see how they handle. Increasingly so after a trip to Madison, WI which has a similar program (red bikes), and after watching the US Olympic BMX team take to the streets of London on the “Boris” bikes that received so much attention during the recent summer games. It was fun to see them riding wheelies on these tank-like comfort bikes. (See video piece with Lester Holt from NBC News.)

So when my office sponsored a series of Nice Ride tours this past Fall to help educate about the program as part of promoting a healthy lifestyle, I was all-in. I was able to participate in two of the rides through downtown St. Paul in September and October. The best was seeing heads turn at a 'peloton' of Nice Ride bikes passing by (there was really only 12 of us, but big yellow-green bikes make a double impact).



About the Bikes

The bikes are really well-geared and surprisingly easy to ride, given the weight. I also like that the bike has good lights built-in. Not sure what to do with the awkward bungee cord “basket” on the front, but I suppose it could come in handy if you didn’t have a backpack and needed to carry something. Seats are instantly adjustable and pretty plush (which I am not used to); I found myself wanting to stand on the pedals a lot while riding.

I think that may have been because the size ratio from me to the bike was such that it reminded me of my BMX bike as a kid (I started out small for my bike). I also wanted to test the suspension and handling, so I was riding into every crack and pot-hole and hopping curbs just for fun (probably annoyed the tour guide). Go ahead and try to pop a wheelie too - you will be even more impressed at the Olympian ability that it takes to do on this bike.

About the Program

Matthew from my office giving the low-down.
The mini-tour our office sponsored started with Nice Ride staff talking us through how the program works, what it costs and they showed us how to “check-out” the bikes (super easy). The nice thing is that if you have a mechanical problem on the road, you can just walk it to the nearest station (they are pretty close together in some parts of downtown), push a button on the bike rack indicating that it needs maintenance, and swap it for a new ride.

Bottom Line

In my opinion, the $65 “annual” subscription (as mentioned, they only have the bikes on the road from about May to November) seems pretty reasonable if you plan on using it. $6 per day is a little steep in my mind, but is probably great price for tourists (as I recall, Madison charged a lot more per day when we visited, which was a deterrent). If you don’t own a bike and only go for short, slow rides or don’t want to worry about bike maintenance, this program is for you. Or even if you bike a lot and just want a backup plan for when you are downtown and like supporting local non-profits, this is a great program.

Amber, Me, and Angie on tour #2. I seem to be the only one not concerned about safety colors.

Pick up a comp Nice Ride pass during one of their many promotional events.

When you finish paying, you can print a ticket with your one-time use code that is good for 5 minutes.
You will need to get a new code after you dock your bike for the next trip.
Select a bike.
Punch in the code to unlock your bike.

Remember your helmet.
(Nice Ride has been giving these snazzy matching
green ones out at promotional events.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Minnesota State CX Championships 2012

Brown Grass

We just got dumped on with snow - enough to make up for the mild weather of the past several weeks. So I am thinking back to just a week ago enjoying the beautiful brown grass at the Minnesota State Cyclocross Championships. My wife was down in Rochester, and I decided to be bold and take the twins out solo to the races in Crystal. We got there just after the start of the final Men's CX1/2. It was tough pushing the double stroller through the woods, and I never did make it over to the infamous stairs. The cowbells proved problematic to the 6-month-old's sensitive ears too, so we kept our distance from the main group of spectators.

The lighting was poor and the bikes moved fast, but I ventured to capture some photos. A more experienced photographer might have fared better... and there were a few of them on hand... but I wanted to share a few fun shots. (I have not been able to find many other photos online, so if you care to share please contact me on twitter: @bobbylama)

Celebrating a clean ride through the sandpit, he miscalculated on the wheelie.

Lovin the retro pink and blue helmet.

Love the beard.

Leaders take a turn during the final lap.

The Final Sprint

More Photos at

Monday, December 3, 2012

"Hard Core" Month

November Totals

There were a couple of days where I felt pretty hard core on the bike last month, but truthfully, it was just beautiful overall (check previous entry on November 21 for a few photos from my route). I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, but let the weather gods smile some more warmth on us until then! I saw that Omnium Bike Shop had their doors open this afternoon (btw - they are having an end of season auction this weekend - check it out).

What day is it? Felt like September. The ride to work in the fog and post-rain was muddy and soaked me through, but it wasn't cold. Had to leave the office early because the twins had an appointment, and it was sunny and 55 the whole way home. Double awesome.

Monday, November 26, 2012


 Wind Chill Factor

Stopped for a shot on Capitol Hill

Yesterday some friends were discussing beardcicles as the measure of how hardcore--and how bad-ass--you are when it comes to winter riding (and skiing). At 1 degree Fahrenheit (wind chill) this morning, I was wishing I hadn't trimmed the rest of the beard the other day to highlight my "Movember" stache.

Just last week, when we were enjoying a blast of Indian summer, I boasted to some co-workers that I would not be deterred from riding by cold weather... that only snow and ice would stop me because of the danger (really mostly out of fear of people in cars not driving carefully in snowy conditions).

However, it wasn't by choice that I rode my bike today. I was ready to eat crow on that previous declaration of manliness and was getting ready to drive the car when my wife informed me that she would need it to take the twins to an appointment this afternoon. So I layered up and got a nice arctic blast all the way to work. It was rough. Unfortunately, no "stachecicles" to show off, just windburn and icy toes.
Wanted to show a semi-normal picture of myself. No beardcicles.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Playing Hookey

Weather Obsessed

For some reason growing up in Minnesota makes you obsessed with the weather. Maybe it is the extremes from winter to summer. So when we get a bout of awesome weather, like we have this week, it is the topic of conversation. Its been so great that the temptation to play hookie has been overwhelming. On my ride to work I joined up with a guy on a sweet Ridley who was doing just that. He had already had 2 hours into a training ride by the time I approached. We chatted for a few minutes about the weather and biking before I had to peal off to work. It has been so great the past week that I decided to tote my camera to grab some shots as I sneak in a few extra miles into my commute along the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Lake Como in St. Paul

Daily temptation. Hard not to stop for pastries.

No fooling these geese, Thanksgiving will bring arctic air.

I'm stopped at this crossing for trains nearly every day.

Minnesota State Capitol

A couple of other regular temptations: bread and bikes.

Liked this guys UPS jersey.
This woman would cringe if she saw this... she widened a little when I combined images into this panorama.

Under the new I-35 W bridge that spans the Mississippi River.

Bumped into some fellow church-members getting a Christmas card portrait taken. 

Love to ride on cobblestone whenever I get the chance.